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Beware of phoney e-mails from banks

BY JASON THOMPSON jason@northernlife.

With a number of phoney e-mails circulating the Internet asking bank customers to verify personal information, the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) hopes public education can stem the tide of fraudulent messages.

By flooding electronic mailboxes with fake mail asking for personal information, an act known as "phishing," crafty criminals are able to withdraw funds from the bank accounts of those fooled by the scam.

"The bank is very well aware of these e-mails," said Melinda Henderson, communications officer for RBC. "We are doing everything we can."

E-mails, claiming they were authorized by RBC, have been popping up in Northern Life e-mail accounts lately.

One e-mail reads, "Due to a recent security breach in the RBC computer systems, we are asking all customers to immediately log in with the link below and immediately report any unnoticed password changes, unexplained funds depletion or the likewise. Rest assured that we have the safety and
privacy of our customers as our top priority, but please help us by following the instructions below."

The culprits use client information to crack into on-line bank services and remove money from them.

"Banks would never send an e-mail to customers asking them to verify their personal information," said Henderson.

She suggests that when confronted with a suspicious e-mail, customers should call their bank, inform law enforcement and delete the e-mail.

While banks have their own personnel dealing with phishing issues, CBA officials say the best way to tackle the problem is through public education.

"No harm can come from phishing if you don't respond to the e-mail and don't provide personal information," said Maura Drew-Lytle, senior manager of
media communication for the CBA.

After e-mails are released asking for personal information, banks' call centres are overwhelmed with phone calls asking about them. This leads Drew-Lytle to believe Canadians aren't really falling for it.

"This is not just about banks, they spoof governments, corporations, retailers, online retailers, etc," said Drew-Lytle.